Collapse costs Leonard second major
by Alan Robinson
CHASKA, Minn. (AP) ? Justin Leonard is great when he's coming from behind on the final day of big tournaments. Given a big lead in a major, it was a much different story Sunday.
It was dreadful, and Leonard now must live with a collapse that cost him the PGA Championship, his second career major and a higher status among the world's elite golfers - one he seemed destined to reach a few years ago.
Leonard took a three-shot lead over playing partner Rich Beem into the final round at Hazeltine National and, given Leonard's reputation for final-day finishes, Beem had said candidly he didn't expect to catch him.
Four holes later, Beem did just that as Leonard bogeyed No. 1 and Beem birdied 3 and 4. Then, after Leonard hit into the water for a double bogey on No. 8 and had a bogey on 9, it was Leonard doing the chasing.
It wasn't very pretty to watch, either.
"It was disappointing," Leonard said.
Clearly unnerved at seeing a three-shot lead become a two-shot deficit within nine holes, a grim-faced Leonard never got his game or his confidence back.
"He didn't have his best stuff," Beem said. "After No. 8, I don't want to say he fell apart. He didn't; it just took a little wind out of his sails."
From No. 8 on, Leonard played five over, with three bogeys on the back nine. It was exactly the opposite of his third round Saturday, when he took charge with a run of three straight birdies from Nos. 13 through 16.
"At No. 16 I felt I still had a chance, but when (Beem) holed his putt and I missed mine, I pretty much conceded at that point," said Leonard, who trailed by six shots at that point.
By the end of his 77 - his worst final round in any tournament this year - he was chasing not the Wanamaker Trophy but third place. He didn't get that, either, dropping into a tie for fourth with Fred Funk.
After tying the Hazeltine National competitive-round record with a 66 Friday and a 69 Saturday, he said he needed "a great round" to win Sunday. He didn't even get a mediocre one.
"I pretty much knew when I left the course (Saturday) it would be a different day today," he said. "I knew I had to play well and play aggressively."
It was a significant slip for a seven-time Tour winner who came from five strokes back to win the 1997 British Open, his only major. Leonard also rallied from five down to win the 1998 Players Championship, and four down with seven holes to play to clinch the 1999 Ryder Cup title for the United States.
Sunday was the second time Leonard led or shared the lead in the PGA going into the final day, and the second time he didn't win. He lost the 1997 Championship to Davis Love III after the two were tied after three rounds, finishing five behind as Love shot a 66 to Leonard's 71.
"I've lost a couple of big tournaments, and I've got the experience to handle it," he said. "It's not fun. This is disappointing, but I still have five or six tournaments left to turn a good year into a great year."
Leonard won the WorldCom Classic and was 11th on the money list entering the PGA Championship.
"If I had won here, it would have been a great year. I've got to try to refocus and get that done," he said.
Does he expect to?
"Get back to me in a couple of months," he said.